I participated in my fourth 24-writing contest and I'm happy to say I've received my third honorable mention. I'm super honored to have been recognized, but I can't help but feel like "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride." Here's to next time! I will place, oh yes, I will.
Here was the prompt for the summer 2014 contest:
She rolled her eyes as another one of her cabin mates tried to stifle sobs. She couldn't believe she had to stay at this horrible camp all summer! Her stomach growled. As she stepped toward her trunk for a forbidden snack, she tripped on a loose board. Curious, she leaned over to peek between the cracks, and saw...
Here is my story:
He was going to starve to death, out here in the middle of nowhere, and it was his own damn fault. The plan was solid, but he got greedy. The shirt being used as a makeshift tourniquet was solid brown in the light of the moon. The bullet only grazed his thigh so he was able to get away, but he’d been lost in the woods ever since.
After three days of no food and almost nonstop walking, the pain in his gut was constant, more so than his throbbing leg. The stream he followed down the mountain, provided a fresh supply of water at least, but his thoughts grew fuzzier with every step.
When smoke wafted to his nose he had convinced himself he was hallucinating. But the scent grew stronger and dark billows made the stars twinkle on and off.
He limped as fast as possible until he narrowly avoided smacking right into a sign.
“Camp Green Thorn - Where children learn the power in a healthy diet.”
Sweat dripped from his forehead as he rested against the hand-carved sign. “Just my luck, a fat camp.”
He was in no position to pass up any food, however, even if it was a salad. Following a small gravel trail, he came upon the fire he had just missed. It still hissed from water that had been dumped on it. Two rows of tiny cabins lay to the North; about the size of over-sized outhouses.
Beams of flashlights bounced on the road ahead. He hobbled to the nearest of the cabins and jumped into the cover of the surrounding bushes.
“Lights out.” The two teenagers yelled. Their voices faded down the path checking each room as they went.
He was about to go hunt for the kitchen when he heard the hushed whispers of two little girls coming from inside.
“You’re gonna get in trouble.” A petulant voice snapped in a harsh whisper.
“Shut up,” came a wobbly retort, followed by the crinkling of a cellophane wrapper.
Jim’s stomach grumbled so loudly it could pass for the distant roar of a bear. He slithered his body into the two-foot crawl space under the small building in an effort to get closer.
The accusatory one spoke again, “I don’t know how you could even be hungry. Our plates overflowed at dinner.”
“The food here tastes funny. I like the stuff at home.”
“They’re trying to help us, but I do wish —”
Careful, to move as quiet as possible he inched on his elbows and knees towards a loose floorboard, thinking maybe he’d reach up and snatch the snack right from her chubby little fingers. Dust fell between the cracks as someone shifted above him.
“Shh, did you hear that?” the hungry one asked cutting off her friend.
“Stop trying to scare me.”
“There is something under the floor.”
A large eye blinked down at him through the crack. “Hello down there?”
The wood panels above his head creaked as the other joined her friend. He stayed completely still. He had hid from police dogs and armed homeowners, he could outsmart some hefty little girls.
“I think it’s a homeless person.”
“Are you hungry?”
At the promise of food, he blurted out in a rasp, “Yes. Please.”
His hand unwittingly reached above, but only the tips of his fingers fit through the cracks.
“Go to the door, but be very quiet. We’ll get in trouble.”
He was at the front in an instant, awash in the flood light. Moths and mosquitoes flew in confused circles around the humming bulb. The door opened a crack and two sets of eyes scanned him up and down.
“I promise, I’m not gonna hurt you. I’m so hungry. Please.” He said, surprised at the emotion wavering his voice. His hands jutted forward, cupped like a pauper.
Two girls in cotton nightgowns stepped out and stared up at him. They were nothing like he imagined. These girls were waif thin with stringy hair, and sunken eyes in dark pits.
“You’re hurt.” The one with hair like rotting straw said, pointing at his thigh and licking her lips.
“We can fix that.” With surprising strength, the other pulled him in before he could respond.
In the dim light of the cabin his starving mind went mad. A human hand wrapped in plastic lay on the floor. He turned around desperate to leave, instinct delayed by starvation having finally kicked in, but his exit was blocked.
“We’re very hungry.” They said in unison before their jaws unhinged to reveal several rows of needle teeth. They were upon him in one deft leap.
Before the darkness took him completely, he watched them dine. One at his arm, the other at his leg avoiding the festering wound, oddly at peace as he listened.
“See, you’re hungry too.” One said as blood dripped from her chin.
“Nothing beats the real thing.”
“They mix in cow and pig into the stuff here.”
“Gross. I wanna go home.”
“They’ll let us. When we’re stronger. Then we’ll go everywhere.”
They smiled at each other.
Then the pounding in his ears subsided and the cold closed his eyes.
The last thing he ever heard was a moan of pleasure as his arm bone was sucked clean.